Some of the late Judge George Carroll’s 11 grandchildren admit that as kids they would rummage through old books and plaques in “Papa George’s” den without having a full understanding of his contributions to the world.
For his granddaughter Nailah Yip, the gravity of Judge Carroll’s impact first struck her when she was watching a video about the justice system in a classroom at age 12 or 13, and Carroll appeared in it. No one in class believed her when she pointed out her grandfather in the video, she said. “It was a proud moment,” Yip added.
Although Carroll was a well-respected “man of many firsts,” family members on Tuesday said they did not realize the extent of the judge’s influence until a public memorial was held for him at Richmond Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people attended the public services for Judge Carroll, who died on Jan. 14 at age 94. Among the attendees to the memorial were Carroll’s family members, friends and also local dignitaries such as Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier.
Richmond City Council honored Carroll this week with a proclamation that Butt read aloud at Wednesday’s memorial:
The praise was well-earned. Carroll is known as the “man of many firsts” because he was the city’s first African American elected mayor (1964), first African American mayor of a large U.S. city since the Reconstruction, Richmond’s first African American lawyer and Contra Costa County’s first African American judge.
Those who spoke about him Wednesday called him a trailblazer who opened doors for so many African Americans. Judge Steven Austin of Contra Costa Superior Court, which also honored Carroll with a proclamation, described him as “kind, wise, just and fair” in his role as judge.
“He was the kind of judge all of us want to be,” Austin said.
In 2009, Gioia led an effort to rename the Richmond Courthouse after Carroll.
Carroll was also lauded for the many great things he did outside the courtroom for the local community, including as a longtime member of the Richmond Kiwanis Club.
But for his family, “Papa George” was far more than a respected public servant.
“Everyone says he had this quiet way,” daughter Janice Mabry said. “We knew someone else at home who had opinions and could beat you in Jeopardy.”
Grandchild Lindsay Ducos added, “He let me drool all on him when I was a child.”
The man with the sterling reputation apparently also had “a lead-foot, no-nonsense” style of driving. He was clear and present for his family and utterly adored and cherished his wife Janie, the family added.
“Our family is very blessed to see the number of people here today,” Yip said.
They hope his memory will forever serve to inspire.
What follows is Carroll’s obituary as printed in the literature provided at Wednesday’s memorial:
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